It was on January 1st, 2013, that I said 'Let's make this the year that we get a dog.' As you may know, a whole load of stuff ensued, but the basic sentiment remained: I wanted 2013 to be the year of the dog. I'd had two lazy dachshunds growing up, but I'd not been a responsible adult dog owner, so this was, and still is, new territory for me. I talked to my vet friend who made the very sensible suggestion of looking for a little, biddable thing, a 'starter dog' if you will. There were a few maybes, few phone calls to breeders, but it never quite happened. In the meantime, I was trawling the Dogs' Trust and Blue Cross websites, looking at Staffy after Staffy after Staffy, and chatting to dog owners, picking up tips, tricks and basic info here and there.
After a while I realised that the reason that the little biddable dog had never quite worked out was that actually, my heart wasn't in it. I realised that what I really wanted was what I categorised in my mind as a 'proper dog', a dog who would traipse miles and fetch sticks and bark deeply when someone knocked on the door. I also realised that what I really wanted was not a puppy but a dog. The only problem, which turned out to be quite a big problem, was that the vast majority of rescue dogs don't mix well with cats or children, which any dog would have to do in order to be part of this household. So I kept my eyes open and ear to the ground, but realised that finding the right dog would take quite a while.
In August I thought I'd found just the dog, and excitedly phoned the rescue only to be told that, sorry, he can't live with cats after all. Sigh. Several long internet searches later, I accepted that it might not work out after all.
On 10th December, we had the church round for Christmas drinks. It as a lovely, warm-spirited evening and I couldn't help eavesdropping as my son told a couple, sitting with a cat on his lap, that he loved the cats, but that he' really, really love a dog. Something in my heart sighed, and the sigh turned immediately to prayer: 'So would I, Lord. I know it's probably not going to work out, but...you know.' The children and I had popped into a local vets' three days before that, to enquire about the Jack Russell looking for a new home, as the poster in the window had told us. I had recognised instantly the response when I mentioned the cats. 'Never mind', I said. 'We'll keep you in mind when we hear about dogs', said the vet nurse, as the rescue had. 'Never mind, kids', I said, 'let's go home'. A quiet prayer welled up within me: Lord, you know I'd really, really love a dog. You know what is right. You know what is best. I understand that it's probably not going to work out. But, Lord...you know.
Two days after the drinks party, the phone rang. It was the vet nurse. Although I hadn't given any of my personal details, she'd found me via the church and wondered if I might be interested in a Cocker Spaniel. Two days after that, I went to visit Ben, whose entire body, not just his tail, wagged, when he met me. After long conversations with Ben's owner and just two days after that, Ben came home with us.
In the few weeks since he came to live with us, Ben's been to two parties, two sleepovers, has had houseguests and dinner parties and attended one act of Christian worship (this makes my life sound very exciting but it has been Christmas!) We have traipsed miles in beautiful countryside, played with sticks and tennis balls, and curled up and watched The Sound of Music together. He padded obediently upstairs on his first night here and slept where he was put, and has done so every night since then. He has a special dinner dance, a habit I might start myself. He and the cats - well, they're working it out between them, thankfully relatively peacefully. It has felt, almost instantly, as if he's been part of us forever. In short, we love him. My vet friend said the other day 'I don't think you realise how exceptional it is to find a dog who fits in so perfectly. I couldn't have chosen better for you myself.' Yeah, I replied, but he does shed a bit. My vet friend smiled: 'the Lord does his very best to send you the perfect dog and all you can do is complain about a bit of fur?'
So, this blog about a dog is about also a blog about a God, a God who does know what is right and best and who hears all our prayers. I know that not all our prayers are answered in such an obvious and joyful way, but it's wonderful when they are. It's taken me a year to work out what kind of dog I'd want, a yer to learn what I need to know and a year to find him. And the dog we've got is far better than any I could have chosen. I'm sure that I'll blog more about Ben; dog owners do go on a bit. But for now, this blog is to say a very big 'thank you' to the God who sent us such a wonderful dog.